The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Autolyse expirement

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shopkins1994's picture
shopkins1994

Autolyse expirement

Hi Everyone. I have been baking 2-3 loaves a day trying different techniques and trying to get the highest loaves possible. I measure each bread that I make for width and height. One thing I noticed is that sometimes my bread was more squat for the same recipe then other times and I wasn't sure why. When I do my recipes they always give a time range to autolyse (i.e. let bread rest for 20-40 minutes). I usually set my timer for the middle of the time period but sometimes I get to them at the low end and sometimes I get to to them at the high end. This is the only thing that varied so I decided to do a test and see if it was the autolyse causing the problem. I made two of the same breads, using flour from the same bag, yeast from the same batch, two of the same dutch ovens, in two of the same ovens (both tested to make sure their temperatures were the same). I folded them the same number of times, they sat next to each other in the same spot and I made them together with the exception that one had a 30 minute autolyse and the other had no autolyse. What I found was that the non-autolyse was higher and less squat than the autolysed version. The crumb and crust looks the same. Here's pictures. The non-autolyse is on the left and the autolysed version is on the right. 

 

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

nice breads. Well Done.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

How do they taste? I find it difficult to remember which loaf is which when I try experimenting.  Your results are interesting and one variable that may not be so easily controlled is the shaping and transfer to the cooking surface. 

If everything ing but the autolysis is the same then you have an answer. But how do they taste?

shopkins1994's picture
shopkins1994

The crumb was exactly the same texture and moisture. I did a blind test with my wife and could not tell which was which (I tried to guess based on the assumption that the autolysed would be more complex tasting). 

 

fotomat1's picture
fotomat1

prior to the autolyse?

shopkins1994's picture
shopkins1994

For the autolysed bread I added the salt and yeast after the autolysed period. For the non-autolysed bread I mixed everything together.

 

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

I am wondering about the timing of initial mixing.

Did you start one loaf off first, allow autolyse time,  then mix up the second no-autolyse loaf, exposing both loaf mixes to yeast at more or less the same time?

Or did you mix both more or less at the same time, but withhold yeast and salt for one mix?

Another thing, how did you decide bulk fermentation was complete - did you watch the clock or the dough? Likewise how did you decide the loaves were ready to be baked? If you were watching the dough, were both loaves ready at the same time to proceed or did you deal with them separately?

Fact is both loaves look great, but I can't help but wonder if autolysis/no-autolysis was your only variable.

shopkins1994's picture
shopkins1994

Everything was timed so that I could eliminate variables. I started the autolyse one first, once I was done mixing the water and flour I made the non-autolyse where I just mixed everything together at once. The autolyse had the salt and yeast added after the 30 minute autolyse period. They both went through the following schedule:

Mix for two minutes

Fold at 10 minutes and 40 (the same number of stretches) for each.

Bulk ferment for 5 hours

Shape into the same shape basket

Proof for one hour

Bake for 60 minutes

The autolyse was always 30 minutes behind because it autolysed 30 minutes in the beginning. 

Pufff's picture
Pufff

Thanks for the interesting experiment!

shopkins1994's picture
shopkins1994

I didn't want to risk using levain since it's so variable so I used instant yeast from the same bag so that I was sure they got the same yeast strength.

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I find the autolyzed dough to be less sticky, maybe because it is more moist. But if the penalty for less sticky dough is a squatter loaf, it isn't worth it. 

shopkins1994's picture
shopkins1994

They both seemed to be the same to me. It was a straight dough with 100% all-purpose flour so I'm not sure how different flours would feel. I am going to not autolyse anymore and see if my breads are always high.

adri's picture
adri

Both breads look very nice.

 

Both seemed to have broken open naturally (without scoring).

As the scoring (or the natural seams where the crust breaks) has a lot of influence on the direction the bread expands this might already account for most of the difference?

shopkins1994's picture
shopkins1994

I use Ken Foskish's method of seam side down in the basket and no scoring so that natural fissures occur. Like I mentioned, I noticed that certain breads would be squat and I couldn't place why. It may very well be the scoring causing it, but then autolyse did nothing for this bread since the non-autolyse was perfect.

adri's picture
adri

I don't know how the Ken Foshish's method is different to the standard one, but with the standard one you can controll a lot where it will burst open by placing the seams right. But you'll always have chance as a higher factor than by scoring.

Maybe the autolyse made it easier to S&F which might be a factor with large quantities of dough but not with dough for just one loaf?

fotomat1's picture
fotomat1

in your experiment? You have access to 2 identical ovens and 2 identical dutch ovens wih exactly the same characteristics in both identical weight weighed on identical scales folded with identical folds....awful lot of variables even with identical looking but different anything. Just basing it on a science of engineering class taken in my first year of college to prove variability even using what appear to be identical themometers. No 2 had the same reading...?  

shopkins1994's picture
shopkins1994

500 grams all-purpose flour, 360 grams water, 10 grams salt, 1/4 yeast. 

Like I stated, I noticed that certain loaves were squat and I didn't know why. Since the autolyse was the only thing I varied by 10-20 minutes I took that out and without autolyse I had a perfect loaf. To me these means one of two things: autolyse squashes loaves, or autolyse doesn't really matter for single loafs.

 

fotomat1's picture
fotomat1

your findings on one test and tell me its conclusive.  "autolyse squashes loaves, or autolyse doesn't really matter for single loafs."  Far too many variables beside the ingredient not to mention consistent methods or equipment which you never really confirmed. Your kitchen must be a good size to have 2 identical ovens with identical temp throughout the bake.. Not trying to be argumenative....you presented your finds and I am simply asking questions that you may not be addressing before you make a firm decision to change your entire approach .Good luck!!

shopkins1994's picture
shopkins1994

Hi, sorry. Didn't mean to be argumentative if I came off that way. I just weighed my dutch ovens and they are within 100 grams of each other. As I mentioned, I noticed squashed loafs and was wondering why and the only thing that wavered is the autolyse time. I am lucky that my kitchen is pretty big (16' X 22'). I let both my ovens preheat for 2 hours and used the same oven gauge to check their temps. I am going to no longer you autolyse and see if I get anymore squashed loaves.

 

Heath's picture
Heath

I read a couple of interesting posts on autolyse experiments the other day here and here which made me re-consider my baking technique.

The tests were on white sourdough loaves, first on length of autolyse, second on whether to autolyse with or without levain.  The results were very informative:

A 2 hour autolyse with levain (but not salt) produced optimum results in height of loaf and crumb.  A 30 minute autolyse wasn't worth doing.

I'm currently in the process of making a couple of sourdough loaves and did a two-hour autolyse.  I haven't baked yet, but the dough was much firmer and less sticky than usual, requiring less stretch and folds.

I haven't been bothered with autolysing for a long time because I felt it made no discernable difference to my loaves, but the 2 hour autolyse I did yesterday certainly made the dough easier to handle.  I'm looking forward to baking to see if the resulting loaves are any different than my usual.

The author of the post does state at the end that the results will be different for flours other than white bread flour.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

To be seriously technical, a super duper correct autolyse would utilize only water and flour mixed together, the other ingredients are supposed to be added later ( a mature levain has acids, yeast and enzymes which can interfere with the autolyse supposedly) I have never done that kind ( super duper correct) of autolyse because the levain is such an essential part of the dough that it is difficult to leave it out until after the autolyse period.

I don't find this true for the basic country Tartine loaf. It is easy enough to add the levain after mixing the flour and water. I can't say it makes for a better or worse bread. Link 2 also says longer autolysis for whole grain breads is not a good idea. That is the opposite of what is said in Tartine Bread. 

Plots of people say bread baking is a science. This may be, but bread bakers are not typically scientists. There is so much conflicting information available,  about every step of the process, that it is a wonder anybody gets bread baked! 

I believe that personal experience is a great teacher but it leads to a great deal of misunderstanding.  I applaud OP for trying to determine he cause of his squat loaves. Whether he has it right or not, further bakes may tell.  

Heath's picture
Heath

Link 2 also says longer autolysis for whole grain breads is not a good idea. That is the opposite of what is said in Tartine Bread.

True, I wondered about that statement too.

I take what I want from other's peoples experience/experiments and use their methods or discard them based on my own results.

bread.on.beard's picture
bread.on.beard

In the first experiment, TG said, "Allow all dough pieces to bulk ferment for six hours folding a total of three times (covered and at room temperature)," and in the second experiment, she said, "Mix together and autolyse for 2 hours, covered at room temperature. Fold dough twice during this time." I've tried doing both and didn't notice much difference.  I've also tried a two hour autolyse with starter, and with no S & F for two hours, and did not notice much difference.   I've also, of late, added the salt after a 30 min. autolyse a la Tartine Country Loaf, and still did not  notice much difference.  To be fair, I did not repeatedly keep doing the extended two hour autolyse with just white flour, but I did make several loaves using a two hour autolyse with S & Fs every 40 min., and adding the salt after two hours. I stopped doing it because I thought I was being two rough on the dough after it had bulk fermented for two hours, and I wasn't seeing any better results.    I usually try to be more easy on the dough as the S & Fs continue.  Plus, I was not getting very good results with my bread during those times anyway.  Since then, I have made several adjustments for the better, but I still wonder what kind of results I could have gotten with the extended autolyse if everything else had been good.  I also wondered why S & F during a two hour autolyse at all?  I thought the technique was used to let the dough do its thing without without disturbing it (?).

Heath's picture
Heath

but I'll answer anyway :-)

I must admit I didn't notice the disparity between the two experiments regarding stretch and folds.  I autolysed for two hours, added the salt, and then did stretch and folds as normal (although the dough required less than usual).  I too thought the purpose of autolyse was to leave it undisturbed.  I'm not sure what to make of the disparity to be honest, but I think the experiment still stands as it's comparing like-for-like.

Anyway, I liked the feel of my dough after doing the 2-hour autolyse.  My sourdough has always been on the gloopy side and doing this made it easier to handle.

bread.on.beard's picture
bread.on.beard

I don't think the disparity in TGs two experiments is a big issue either, but, just to clarify, I pointed it out to see if you had done the one, or the other, or none.    I was more interested in knowing if you had done any S & Fs during your  two hour autolyse experiment, as it appears TG did in both of her experiments.  I think you answered my question, but, again, just to clarify, I take it you did not S & F at all until your two hour autolyse experiment was done?  I did not have much success with extended autolyse when I tried it, but I was very new to SD and later discovered other things that were fouling up my results that had nothing to do with short or long autolyse.  Now that my bread is turning out better, I'm interested in trying it again.  Thank you for responding.

Heath's picture
Heath

...just to clarify, I take it you did not S & F at all until your two hour autolyse experiment was done?

No, I didn't stretch and fold until after the two hours were up and I added the salt.

fotomat1's picture
fotomat1

are you saying?????????? Bread on Beard??

Heath's picture
Heath

Bread on Beard is referring to the links I posted to autolyse experiments on northwestsourdough.com, not the OP's experiment.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

I get the best results with a -2 hour autolyse of white breads.  This gives the enzymes that break down starch into sugars the wee beasties eat a head start producing them which means better rise and spring not less.

I say do this again and bake them at the same time, in the same oven, on the same stone, with exactly the same weight, the same heat and  the same steam.  The the only difference will be the operators gluten development and shaping so better to do this no knead too:-)

suave's picture
suave

This gives the enzymes that break down starch into sugars the wee beasties eat a head start producing them which means better rise and spring not less

This should matter only in too cases - if you use organic (as in unmalted) flour, or if you use more that 2% yeast.   In all other cases enzymatic activity of the flour should be higher than fermentation rate.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

I don't use commercial yeast very much and find bread made with it nearly tasteless.  I also don't use organic flours either finding the cost extreme and not even close to being worth the exorbitant price,  But, around half the flour I use is home milled whole grains and unmalted until I malt it.  I also use unsalted, non organic white flour bought at the store on occasion too.  Very cheap but works fine once malted.

I have no idea what the enzymatic activity is for the blend of store bought and home made flours I use and don't know how i would find out.   But I do assume that with SD, where there are 100 times more LAB than yeast developing and fermenting at 92 F in my case - it may not be fast enough - who knows?.  Every little bit of starch broken down to sugar ahead of time helps and a head start for the starch being broken down is a good thing in my book.  But it is also the residual, post proofing,  sugar that I am shooting for too - to make sure the bread browns properly after long retards or high temperature proofing.

Since some bran can absorb 800% their weight in water, this also takes time and I want the bran as soft and broken down as much a possible to get a better crumb.   I haven't seen anyone advocating doing an autolyse for a lower rose and  spring in the oven - just the opposite.  These are the reasons I do an autolyse for just about all of my breads. 

Plus Michael's idol below says  autolysing of 20 minutes - 24 hours, depending , is a good thing,  But he isn't the only one to advocate autolysis for a better crumb, better browning,l higher rise and better spring of the loaf either.  Here is a partial excerpt - so it has to be good :-) 

3. The biochemical processes.

Are the processes of transformation of lipids, carbohydrates, proteins and other chemical components of the flour and the dough with the help of enzymes contained in the flour and baking powder. The reactions that occur in the dough are numerous and complex. During kneading is create different bonds (covalent, dipolar, ionic, hydrogen, electrostatic, etc..) Between the proteins forming the gluten and other components (soluble proteins, mineral salts, starch, lipids, etc.). building a uniform and homogeneous material called "dough."

Furthermore, with the help of enzymes of the flour, activated with water, the dough begin the reactions of hydrolysis of proteins and starch. Under the action of proteases, the proteins in the flour begin to disintegrate peptides (the reaction of proteolysis), helping the mixture to become softer and more plastificabile. This process takes place in each dough, but may be more or less active, depends on various factors (enzyme activity of the flour, the properties of gluten, dough temperature etc..). Also in the dough takes place the hydrolysis of starch under the action of amylase, which begins dall'impastamento, but develops more than anything else during the fermentation, making the foods (sugars) to the yeast cells, and for this reason is of significant importance. Although this process (saccariferazione starch) liquefying the action takes place in the dough. In addition reactions take place in the transformation of sugars and lipids. The behavior of the latter has a dual effect: in themselves increase the extensibility of the gluten network and make the dough more pliable, if they are processed with the help of enzymes (lipase and lipossiasi) in substances peroxides (this process is partially and has a lower intensity) cause the opposite effect, because the latter make the gluten stronger and more rigid.

Happy baking Suave

 

 

  

Xenophon's picture
Xenophon

...I assume that preferment or yeast have been added at that point.  To me 2 hours is no longer autolyse but bulk fermentation.  I read a paper on autolyse (but unfortunately can't seem to find the link right now) that stated that after 20-30 minutes at room temperature the flours were fully hydrated and enzyme activity had taken off.  The authors didn't see any benefit in going beyond 30 minutes but obviously everyone should do as they see fit.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

dough flour and water only. no salt, no yeast, no preferment, no SD levain - nothing but flour and water.  It depends on the flour being used.  My breads are usually around 50% home milled whole grain that I add malt to on occasion.  i autolyse home milled flours for a minimum of 4 hours because 30 minutes to these grains have little autolyse effect - the hard bits aren't even soft yet.  White flours you can autolyse less 1- 2 hours no problem.

mwilson's picture
mwilson
fotomat1's picture
fotomat1

wonderfully talented man. Do you have any of his books?

mwilson's picture
mwilson

He certainly knows a thing or two..! I have been tempted to pick up one of his books. But I'd have to seriously brush up on my Italian before making an investment. Indecently, I see his website has had a recent makeover...

http://www.giorilli.com/

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

home baker, I often forget time.  and I rarely do a 30min autolyse.  If sour dough culture is involved, it tends to go longer, close to an hour to get the same dough feel.  30min is the minimum not maximum time to let flour hydrate, and gluten to form.  Sill the test seems interesting.  72% hydration with AP.  That alone is a challenge.  That would make my shoulders droop.  I don't think there is any concern about the flour not hydrating in the posted experiment as no competition is presented between the various demanding ingredients (flour, yeast, salt)   I think the lower the hydration, the more important autolyse becomes for any particular flour, some more than others.  My high rye at 72% (relative low hydration) would need more time.  A spelt or Whole wheat less if it is to be retarded.  

After this post, I paid attention to my wheat dough last night, everything went into the recipe right away but I didn't like the dough feel at a lower hydration, so it sat.  it wasn't until over an hour, that the gluten started to feel far enough along to bother kneading.  So I grated a cold potato while waiting and nuked some whole caraway...  pinching the dough every quarter hour.  Being in a rush made me realise how long the dough actually needed.  

fotomat1's picture
fotomat1

bread books in several languages and have always learned something from them. I think it to be the only way short of training in a country to get the flavor and thinking correct. It takes a bit of time and a dictionary but the language in most is somewhat intuitive.

shopkins1994's picture
shopkins1994

I purchased the "Advanced Bread and Pastry" book that was recommended in a different thread for a different problem. In the autolyse section it says that autolyse is indeed used to increase the extensibility (ability to be stretched and to spread) of the bread and to reduce the elasticity (breads ability to spring back to the original shape when you stretch it). I suppose you would want autolyse for any bread you needed to shape such as a baguette, but for boules you probably just want enough so that it has good oven spring but not so much that it starts to slouch.